Losing My Serenity

Day 22 in Japan.  Today I would leave Koyasan for Tokyo, from whence my nine-year-old nephew Charlie and I would travel to Shimoda.  Charlie is the nom de plume he has chosen.  His real name is Japanese.

As I finished my last fabulous breakfast at the monastery, Mick and Mary, the Aussies, stopped by my dining room and asked, “How ya goin’?”

I began to blab out all the thoughts I’d had about the Japanese approach to war remembrance, in particular the memorial to some action in Malaysia which possibly involved a forced march of Australian troops but which was spun in the cemetery as a neutral action.

Mick and Mary weren’t interested.  “We’re just here for the food,” Mick said, somewhat jokingly.  They invited me to come and see their accommodations, and I accepted.  They had a separate little house, basically.  It was similar in style to my humble room but it had an en suite bathroom with its own soaking tub.  So you can live large in a monastery if you’ve got the dosh.

The first bus out of Koyasan left at 8:11.  I stuffed my suitcase into the dumbwaiter, then nearly slid down the steep stairs to meet it on the ground floor.  “Thank god I’ll never have to hike these treacherous stairs again,” I thought.  Then I realized I’d forgotten my coins in the room so I had to go up and down one more time for the road.

It was raining, a hard steady downpour.  I was the first person at the bus stop but soon was surrounded by tourists from Spain, France, the UK, North America, and Australia.  They bunched together to avoid the rain, with me at the center so that when the bus arrived I was the last to get on.

An American or Canadian woman asked me to not sit in the last empty seat because, she explained, “My husband has long legs and needs an extra seat.”

“That’s not my problem,” I said as I took the seat.  So much for mountaintop serenity.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had slept all night without any Restless Legs symptoms, something that only occurs about twice a year.  As the day progressed I noted the difference between energy from a good night’s sleep and nervous energy from adrenaline.  The first type ebbs away slowly, while the second drains like a sieve and makes you more tired than ever.  Today I would be so very grateful for the good energy that comes from sleep.

From the Koyasan bus station I took the cable car down the mountain, then the train onward.  In Osaka, I got off at the wrong station.  Five people gave me five different answers about what to do next.  I was confused, panicked, and tearful.

Then I stopped and thought—if I can get to Kyoto, I can get to Tokyo.  Just do the next indicated thing.

I got to Kyoto, where I finally used the fabulous bag shipping service that every guide book promotes.  It cost $17 to have my bag shipped to Shimoda, so I wouldn’t have to lug it to Tokyo and then to Shimoda, all while herding my nephew.  Fantastic.

I felt elation when I was finally on a Shinkansen for Tokyo.  An aged British man dressed in all black like a heavy metal rocker snored loudly in the seat across from me, while his much younger Asian wife entertained their children.  I wondered what she saw in him, with his pot belly and long, thin, grey hair framing a bald spot.  Maybe it was true love.

As we passed through Yokohama I thought about my dad, who had spent time here on shore leave while serving in the US Navy.  Did I have a half sibling here?  Probably I would find out eventually, if Ancestry.com becomes the rage in Japan that it is in the US.

In Tokyo I became confused again. I had traveled on a bus, a cable car, and six trains. I finally found my seventh and final train.  Google had mapped this trip at four hours but I arrived at Omiya station at 5pm—nine hours after leaving Koyasan.

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